Rob Hughes

Author's details

Date registered: November 15, 2013


Rob Hughes invites your comments and participation. Solve some mazes here. You are the reason the site exists, so let me know; compliments, comments and complaints all welcome!

Latest posts

  1. Poweshiek Skipperling — February 23, 2016
  2. Karner Blue Butterfly — January 19, 2016
  3. Gray Wolf — May 17, 2015
  4. Black Footed Ferret Maze — April 3, 2015
  5. Snuffbox Mussel Maze — February 7, 2015

Author's posts listings

Apr 20 2014

Great Lakes Piping Plover Maze

Great Lakes Piping Plover Maze

Great Lakes Piping Plover Maze

Original Artwork and paper copyright 2014 by Rob Hughes.

The Endangered Great Lakes Piping Plover.

The Great Lakes Piping Plover is a migratory bird that made summer nests on the shores of the Great Lakes.  Records from the 1890s show about 680 breeding pairs on sandy beaches from New York to Wisconsin.  During the 20th century almost all of the Great Lakes Piping Plovers were killed and their territory greatly diminished.  In 1984 there were only 12 breeding pairs and they all lived on the shore of Lake Michigan.

There are two subspecies of Piping Plover.  The Great lakes Piping Plover is part of the subspecies that also nests in the Great Plains area (from Oklahoma to south central Canada).  The other distinct subspecies nests along the Atlantic Ocean (from North Carolina to Newfoundland).

In the late 19th century and early 20th century many bird species, including the Piping Plover, were hunted: their feathers used to adorn women’s hats.  As a result many birds were killed, and in 1918 the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was enacted as federal law.  This law protects over 800 migratory bird species, crosses state lines, and is still in effect today.  Both species of the Piping Plover are on this list.

It is not known what drove the Great Lakes Piping Plover to the edge of extinction in the 20th century.  Aside from killing them for feathers, we have other pursuits that are lethal to plovers.  One of these is property development.  The beachfront property these birds need for survival is often used for recreation, residential and commercial development.  Pedestrians and all terrain vehicles sometimes crush the eggs.  Garbage left on the beach attracts raccoons, foxes, cats and other animals that in turn prey on the Plover or its eggs.  Off leash dogs pose another threat.  Another culprit is the use of DDT (a pesticide used on fields until 1972 when it was banned).  DDT washes off the cropland and into the lakes and rivers where it poisons the small invertebrates the Piping Plover eats.  It may be that some pesticides used today pose a similar, if less pronounced, threat.  Industrial pollution is yet another problem.  There are likely other hazards (resulting from our society) in the plovers’ winter or summer home; or along its migratory path, which caused the Great Lakes Piping Plover to nearly go extinct.  The Piping Plovers that were common on the Atlantic Coast and inland on the Great Plains suffered a similar – if less drastic – fate.  Now the Atlantic population is about 1750 pairs; and the Great Plains has about 2200 pairs.  These plovers are currently listed as threatened in the United States, and endangered in Canada.

In 1986 the Great Lakes Piping Plover was listed as an endangered species.  All of the know breeding pairs, nineteen in total, nested on Michigan shorelines.  Starting in 1990 people determined to help protect the Plover in its native habitat from predators, developers and tourists.  Over the next two decades, the Plover population increased almost every year.  At last count, in 2012, there were nearly 60 nesting pairs; about 1/3 of those reside in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Little is known about the Piping Plovers’ winter habits.  Regardless of their summer homes they migrate to spend the winter on beaches from southern North Carolina to Florida where they congregate together.  In 2011 a previously unknown outpost of 1000 Piping Plovers was discovered wintering in the Bahamas.  In total there are about 8000 Piping Plovers alive today.

Characteristics of the Piping Plover.

The Piping Plover is named for its distinctive bell like call.  The adult female and male birds look very similar.  They are about 5” – 7” long, with a wingspan of about 14”.  Their bodies are sandy colored, with yellow-orange legs, and a beak that is orange with a black tip.  During the spring and summer these birds have distinctive black marking on their forehead and about the neck.  They camouflage well with their surroundings.

In general, the Piping Plover prefers sandy flat beaches with some gravel to nest on.  The male bird scratches a nest, called a scrape, in the sand just big enough for a plover to sit in.  Then, with an impressive diving flight display he attracts a female to the scrape.  This courting behavior occurs immediately upon migratory arrival in the early spring.

The males reach the nesting grounds in early April just a few days before the females arrive.  After mating the eggs incubate for about 28 days.  When the eggs hatch the chicks begin foraging within a few hours.  In another 30 days or so they learn how to fly.  The first nest of the season almost always has 4 eggs.  The short incubation time and early arrival allow this species as many as 4 nests during the spring and summer.  The male and female share the incubation duty, taking turns sitting on the eggs.  After the first brood, other nests that year will usually only have 2 or 3 eggs each.

Less than half of the fledgling will survive the migratory journey of about 2000 miles.  Adults generally fare better, and are known to live as long as 14 years in the wild.  The average lifespan of an adult is 5 years.

The Great Lakes Piping Plover is a very rare bird making a comeback from the brink of extinction.  It is a small bird that blends in with its surroundings.  Every year it flies close to 4000 miles along its migratory path.  It is susceptible to various hazards throughout the year.  As we grow in harmony with the natural environment, so too do the numbers of the Piping Plover.

Original artwork is copyright 2014 by Rob Hughes.  Drawn with india ink on 9″ x 12″ Bristol white vellum surface paper.  Made in Michigan.  Built to last.

This design is available as a greeting card.

Download a PDF of the Great Lakes Piping Plover Maze here!

Here is the solution to the Great Lakes Piping Plover Maze.

 Resources: link takes you to referenced article.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
All About Birds.
Defenders of Wildlife.
State of Connecticut.
National Park Service.
University of Michigan.
University of Michigan.
Wildlife Preservation Canada.
National Park Service.
State of New York.
State of Michigan.
State of New Hampshire.
Center for Biological Diversity: On Time, On Target.

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Apr 13 2014

Ozark Big Eared Bat Maze

Ozark Big Eared Bat Maze

Ozark Big Eared Bat Maze

Ozark Big-Eared Bat Maze.


The Ozark Big-Eared Bat roosts in limestone caves in the Ozark Highlands and Boston Mountain ecoregions of NW Arkansas and adjacent NE Oklahoma.  The bats once lived in nearby SW Missouri, but human activity forced them to leave.

         These caves maintain a year round temperature of between 40° and 50° F.  In late spring through late summer, the males sleep on their own, while the females roost together in warmer (50 -59° F) caves.  In these maternity colonies, each mother gives birth to one offspring per year.  In three weeks a baby bat flies; and in three more it will be weaned.

         After the fall mating season, the male and female bats hibernate together from October or November through April or May.  They favor locations near the fronts of caves.  This makes them vulnerable to being awakened by human sightseers, cavers or vandals.  When a bat wakes up during hibernation, it uses up fat reserves: 10 – 30 days of the bat’s stored energy.  Too much winter activity will cause a bat to die of starvation.

         Another threat that may affect these bats is a fungal disease called the white-nose syndrome.  First identified in 2007 in a New York state cave, this disease has wiped out approximately 80 percent of all bat populations in eastern parts of the United States.  The disease is spreading both North and West from its origin and it is likely only a matter of time before it reaches bats living in the Ozarks.

         The Ozark Big-Eared Bat eats a variety of insects.  The bulk of its diet, perhaps 90 percent, comes from eating moths.  It may be that the bat’s oversized ears – they would be over 2 feet tall if scaled up to a six foot human – play a part in the bat’s ability to hunt moths.  However, since other bat species with smaller ears can eat a similar diet, what role the big ears (1.2 inches – 1.5 inches) play is not known for sure.  The Ozark Big-Eared Bat is about 3.5 – 4.5 inches long, and has a wingspan of about one foot.

         There are believed to be fewer than 1800 of these bats left in the wild.  Getting an accurate count is challenging.  In 2006 simultaneous night-vision video and high frequency audio recording started to supplement traditional counting methods.  It is easier to count the bats as the tape is played back in slow motion (or even frame by frame) than it is to count bats flying out of a cave in person.  Moreover, since many bat species may live in the same cave, the high frequency audio determines if a bat whose ears are obscured is an Ozark Big-Eared Bat or not.  This is because each species of bat has its own unique call.

         Efforts to conserve this species, first listed as endangered on November 30, 1979, are ongoing.  Fences at the cave entrances keep people (and domesticated animals) out, but let bats in.  An 885-acre reserve, the Oklahoma Bat Caves National Wildlife Refuge, shelters the Ozark Big-Eared Bat, and other endangered bat species native to the area.

         The Ozark Big-Eared Bat, unique to caves in Oklahoma and Arkansas has fewer than 1800 individuals left in its population.  Named for its big ears, this bat was placed on the endangered species list in 1979.  Now the biggest impending threat may be the White Nose Syndrome.

Original artwork is copyright 2014 by Rob Hughes.  Drawn with india ink on 9″ x 12″ Bristol white vellum surface paper.  Made in Michigan.  Built to last.

This design is available as a greeting card.

Download a PDF of the Ozark Big Eared Bat Maze here!

Here is the solution to the Ozark Big Eared Bat Maze.

Resources (link takes you to referenced article).


United States Fish and Wildlife Services.

National Geographic. 

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Biological Diversity.


Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. 

Southwest Natural Resources Inventory and Monitoring.

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Apr 06 2014

The Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly Maze

Mitchell's Satyr Butterfly Maze!

Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly Maze!

Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly

          The Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly is one of the world’s rarest butterflies.  Named after professor J. N. Mitchell from the University of Michigan, by G. H. French, in 1889.  This butterfly depends on swampy wetlands with just the right PH level for the plants it relies on to grow.  These wetlands, called fens, were never very numerous and with the advent of modern civilization are under constant threat of development.  In addition to the direct destruction of the ecosystems the butterfly needs for survival, it faces indirect threats.  In some instances the water flow is altered enough that the fen loses it’s delicate PH balance, eliminating the sedges the butterfly depends on for survival.  In other cases, there may be a decrease in the native foliage the butterfly eats as they are replaced by non-native species.

          The Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly starts life in the summer when a female butterfly lays eggs onto a leaf or other bit of swampy matter.  Those eggs hatch, and the emerging caterpillar goes through 3 molts before the winter sets in.  At that time, this amazing creature goes into a hibernation period under the snow.  When spring returns, the caterpillar goes through two more molts to finally emerge as a Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly.  In this, it’s final form it has just 3 short weeks to find a mate, reproduce and lay eggs before it dies.  It is a small butterfly with a wingspan of about an inch.  It lives its entire life in only a small portion of the fen where it was born.

          The butterfly is found in the lower fifty miles or so of Michigan, along the Michigan border from the Toledo Ohio area west to lake Michigan.  In this area there are only 13 fens that meet the butterfly’s needs.  It is also found in a couple of localities in Indiana.  At one time, this butterfly lived in parts of Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Ohio; and also locations no longer suitable in Michigan and Indiana.  Recent populations discovered in Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama await DNA testing to see if they are truly Mitchell’s Satyr Butterflies, or another sub-species that looks very much like the Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly.

Original artwork is copyright 2014 by Rob Hughes.  Drawn with india ink on 9″ x 12″ Bristol white vellum surface paper.  Made in Michigan.  Built to last.

This design is available as a greeting card. 

Download a PDF of the Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly Maze here!

Here is the solution to the Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly maze.

Resources (link takes you to the referenced article):

Biokids University of Michigan

United States Fish and Wildlife Services

United States Environmental Protection Agency

Michigan Department of Natural Resources


University of Michigan Animal Diversity for Kids

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Xerces Society

Encyclopedia of Life 

Michigan State University

Pizza, Beer and Science

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Mar 30 2014

Louisiana Black Bear Maze

Louisiana Black Bear Maze

Louisiana Black Bear Maze

Try to solve the Louisiana Black Bear Maze.

The Louisiana Black Bear is a type of black bear that lives in the hardwood forests on the floodplains of Louisiana, Mississippi and east Texas.  One of 16 subspecies of the black bear, the Louisiana Black Bear is the only one that is endangered.  It is distinguished from the other subspecies by its relatively flatter, narrower and longer skull; and larger molar teeth.

The Louisiana Black Bear is an omnivore; and opportunistic in its feeding habits.  The majority of its diet comes from nuts and berries that are commonly found in its ecosystem.  Before the winter comes the black bear will add up to 30 pounds of fat to its body weight.  This is in preparation for the winter hibernation.  The bear will cease eating or drinking; and neither urinate or defecate for up to 5 months.  The bear’s heart rate drops from 40 or 50 beats per minute to 8 beats per minute.

Human development of the forests is the bear’s major threat to its existence.  Some of this is agricultural, some commercial and some residential.  In addition, the bear is considered a pest; getting in to garbage, and raiding grain silos and fields alike.  Therefore, many people may feel justified in killing these animals, even though it is illegal.

The bear was listed as an endangered species in 1992; and that same year was declared the state mammal of Louisiana.  People have threatened its existence; and people can help to make them more numerous.  We just have to leave their territory alone.

Original artwork is copyright 2014 by Rob Hughes.  Drawn with india ink on 9″ x 12″ Bristol white vellum surface paper.  Made in Michigan.  Built to last.

Download a PDF of the Louisiana Black Bear Maze here!

Click here for the solution to the Louisiana Black Bear Maze.

This design is available on a greeting card.

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 16 2014

June Sucker Maze

June Sucker Maze

June Sucker Maze

The June Sucker is an endangered fish that is only found in Utah Lake, in north central Utah, and the lake’s tributaries.  As recently as 1999 there were fewer than 1000 of these fish living in the wild – a steep decline from the millions present in the early 1800’s.  Recent preservation efforts have increased the number of fish to about 250,000.  These new fish are raised in a man-made hatchery near the lake.  It will take time to see if they will find places to spawn in the wild, and then the sucker may be removed from the endangered species list.

One of the June Sucker’s immenent threats is non-native carp, first released in 1883, that now teem by the millions in Utah Lake.  These carp are no threat to a adult sucker (which may be as big as 2 feet from mouth to tail fin); however, the carp feed on the younger suckers.  Since a June Sucker takes many years to mature, they are susceptible to predation during that time.

In an effort to restore the overall well-being of the Utah Lake ecosystem about 2.5 million carp have been removed from 2011 – early 2014.  Another 3.5 million need to go before there will be a chance of ecological balance in this part of the world.  With proper funding this goal will be met by 2017.  The June Sucker is an indicator species which means it represents the health of the ecosystem it lives in.  Therefore the whole area that it lives in, the 150 square miles or so of Utah Lake, and the surrounding land mass, is in bad shape.

Original artwork is copyright 2014 by Rob Hughes.  Drawn with india ink on 9″ x 12″ Bristol white vellum surface paper.  Made in Michigan.  Built to last.

Download a PDF of the June Sucker maze here!

Click here for the solution to the June Sucker Maze.

The June Sucker fish Maze is available on a greeting card here.

Permanent link to this article:

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